Dubai: General Classification leader Roglic Primoz of Team Jumbo-Visma clinched UAE Tour’s sixth and penultimate stage between Ajman and Jebel Jais, powering past Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin in a remarkable sprint finish at the end of 180km on Friday.
With this victory, Primoz has one hand on the 24 carat gold-plated heptagonal trophy going into the 145km final stage of the inaugural UAE Tour on Saturday.
The Slovenian now has a 31-second advantage over Spaniard Alejandro Valverde of Movistar and leads by 44 seconds over Groupama — FDJ’s David Gaudu, who finished third at Jebel Jais.
All Roglic has to do in the last stage in Dubai is ensure he finishes in the bunch given his substantial lead.
“We showed again with the whole team how strong we are and I’m really happy I managed to finish it off today,” said a jubilant Roglic. “From the beginning our guys did a perfect job and I was protected all day from the wind. Laurens De Plus pulled until the last 500 metres. It was really impressive from the whole team.”
Roglic is in no mood to celebrate until the end of the final stage.
“The race is done for today but tomorrow is a new day. We just have to stay focused until the finish,” he said.
There was heavy rain overnight, but by the time race started, the roads had dried up. The conditions, however, remained overcast and challenging.
With Roglic having a 21-second lead going into the sixth stage, this was Valverde’s final opportunity to close the gap. However, the Spaniard’s day started with trouble as he was caught up in an early crash. The Spaniard was quick to make his way back into the peloton where Jumbo-Visma riders were clearly protecting race leader Roglic.
The final Jebel Jais climb was always going to be a test as it was twice the length of Jebel Hafeet climb on stage two in Al Ain. USA’s Joey Rosskopf of CCC Team seemed to be powering away with a 46-second lead over the peloton with 5km to go, but he was caught with 2.2km remaining and Dumoulin then led the sprint in the final 200m. Valverde didn’t have the legs to challenge and Roglic outsprinted Gaudu and Dumoulin to claim victory. UAE Team Emirates’ Dan Martin had to be content with fourth place ahead of Valverde.
“It was a really nervous day in the peloton and my guys did an amazing job of protecting me,” said Martin. “The climb was really fast, not like a typical climb in Europe so we had to be very tactical.
“I feel that I slightly mistimed my sprint at the end and didn’t have the legs to go again. That said, I think I rode a better race today than on Jebel Hafeet so I’m happy about that, even if I am just lacking a little bit of punch at the end. Tomorrow is another day so we’ll look forward to that.”